Despite the so-called “liberal” media’s endless barrage of pro-Israeli propaganda, a significant portion of the U.S. public is opposed to the current attack on Gaza. As the casualties mount and peace is pushed further out of reach, The Indypendent’s Jaisal Noor exposes three big myths of the conflict.
MYTH # 1
The root of the conflict is that Hamas is a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel.
It is true that Hamas commits unjustifiable terrorist acts and is on the United States’ terror list. The “terrorist” label is often used against enemies of U.S.-supported countries. When it was deemed in their interest, Israel and the United States bolstered both Hamas and its predecessor the Muslim Brotherhood. Terrorist tactics were also used by the groups Irgun and the Stern Gang to aid in the creation of a Jewish state. Meanwhile, Israel stands accused of indiscriminately targeting civilians by the United Nations and human rights groups.
The “terror” list currently includes the Lebanese Hezbullah which was born from the resistance to the 1982 Israeli invasion, and until last year included Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.
Another former member of the U.S. terror list is the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The original PLO charter concurs with the Hamas charter, proclaiming that “armed struggle” be used to reclaim Palestine. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once accused former PLO leader Yasser Arafat of being a “terrorist,” and refused to negotiate with him. Today the PLO’s biggest party, Fatah, is the preferred peace partner.
Recently, Hamas has firmly maintained that it is now willing to participate in negotiations based on internationally recognized borders and rights. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that as early as 2006, Hamas leader Ismaeil Haniyeh offered “a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and … a truce for many years.” Haniyeh called on President Bush to launch a dialogue with the Hamas government. “We are not warmongers, we are peacemakers and we call on the American government to have direct negotiations with the elected government.” Hamas re-emphasized this position recently, adding, “our conflict is not with the Jews, our problem is with the occupation.” The United States and Israel ignored the offer.
Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank — which were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War — are recognized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 as the land for a future Palestinian state. This has become the international consensus for peace, with only Israel, the United States and a handful of other nations voting against the annual General Assembly resolution calling for a settlement based on “242.”
MYTH # 2
Hamas is to blame for ending the cease-fire and Israel’s actions are in self-defense.
The three conditions for the June 2008 ceasefire were that (1) Israel would drastically reduce its military blockade of Gaza, (2) Israel would halt all military incursions into Gaza and, (3) Hamas would halt all rocket attacks into Israel.
From the outset of the cease-fire, Israel did little to ease its military blockade. As a result, Gazans continued to suffer from a lack of food, fuel, financial aid, electricity, clean water, medical supplies and more. The United Nations warned that Gaza would face “catastrophe” if the blockade were not lifted. The Israeli government maintained that the blockade was necessary to stop rocket attacks. However, as the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper reports, Hamas had ceased launching rockets into Israel during the cease-fire and even arrested members of militant groups who did fire a handful of rockets.
Despite the intense blockade against Gazan civilians, the cease-fire held until Nov. 4. On that date, Haaretz reports, it was the Israeli military that made an incursion into Gaza and killed six Palestinians. The Israeli government sought to justify these actions, saying that these Palestinians were suspected of plotting to kidnap Israeli soldiers. Predictably, militants responded to the attack by launching rockets into Israel. Thus began the unraveling of the cease-fire.
Following the end of the cease-fire, Israel moved closer to an invasion, claiming this was the only remaining option to eliminate rocket attacks from Gaza. According to Haaretz, Hamas offered to extend the ceasefire if Israel lifted its blockade. There is evidence that Israel was planning to strike Gaza before and during the cease-fire.
The White House said that Israel will cease its attack when Hamas has agreed to a truce. Hamas has said it would abide by a cease-fire if border crossings were reopened and the economic siege of Gaza ended. Israel has refused this offer.
Meanwhile, Israel unleashed its U.S.-supplied arsenal — which includes unconventional weapons — while attacking its own designated safe-areas. This forced the Red Cross and United Nations to briefly suspend relief work in Gaza, spurring the Vatican to compare the conditions there to a “concentration camp.” The United States abstained from a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.
Israel and the United States are doing everything in their power to achieve peace.
For decades the United States has provided Israel with billions of dollars annually in military aid and backed Israel’s seizure of occupied lands. The number of settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem has increased from 200,000 in 1990 to more than 460,000 today. Claiming it received secret U.S. approval , Israel announced it would build thousands of new homes in 2008. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that this directly “contravenes both international law and Israel’s obligations” in the peace process.
Israel has also erected a “security barrier” through the West Bank, annexing large swaths of land. In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared construction of the wall “contrary to international law.”
Meanwhile, even outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently stated that to achieve peace and recognition by the Arab world, Israel “should withdraw from almost all of the territories, including in East Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights.”
Amid reports that President-elect Obama may reverse U.S. policy and negotiate with Hamas, scholar Norman Finkelstein observes, “Hamas in recent months has supported a two-state settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict, joining the international consensus. It’s abiding by the terms of the truce, showing it can be trusted to abide by its agreements, which means it was becoming a credible negotiating partner.” He adds, “Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated in early December 2008 that although Israel wanted to create a temporary period of calm with Hamas, an extended truce ‘harms the Israeli strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement.’ Translation: a protracted cease-fire that enhanced Hamas’ credibility would have undermined Israel’s strategic goal of retaining control of the West Bank.” Finkelstein concludes: “Israel was facing a new Palestinian peace offensive and therefore it has to knock out Hamas.”
Click here to view a 2008 map of Israeli Settlements and separation barrier in the West Bank produced by the The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’TSELEM.
Adam Sheets contributed to this article.
THE WORLD STANDS WITH PALESTINE: Pro-Palestinian women in New York City stand next to the Palestinian flag at one of the many demonstrations that have taken place since the Israeli assault on Gaza began in late December. From New York to London to Cairo, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets. “We are demanding that the Palestinians be protected, but as Americans, we are also demanding that our tax money not be spent on killing innocent civilians,” a protestor told The Indypendent at a Jan. 3 rally in New York City. PHOTO: MARK A. BAILEY